Uber pledges not to use 'greyballing' tech against regulators

Travis Kalanick.
David Orrell | CNBC

In a Wednesday blog post, Uber addressed its special technology that hides the regular city view from users and shows them an altered view instead. The company pledged not to employ this technology against regulators who are trying to investigate Uber.

The existence of that tech, called "Greyball" within the company, was first revealed in a report in the New York Times last Friday. According to that report, Uber used Greyball to target regulators in cities where Uber was banned or restricted, such as Portland, Oregon. Those regulators attempted in some cases to order Uber cars to prove they were operating illegally. Greyball showed cars that didn't actually exist, and real drivers who offered rides quickly canceled, according to the Times.

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At the time, Uber told the Times that the technology was used against riders who were violating its terms of service, "opponents who collude with officials on secret 'stings' meant to entrap drivers."

Wednesday's statement from Uber said Greyball "has been used for many purposes, for example: the testing of new features by employees; marketing promotions; fraud prevention; to protect our partners from physical harm; and to deter riders using the app in violation of our terms of service." It continues, "we are expressly prohibiting its use to target action by local regulators going forward."

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